August went really quickly with training and introductions with the various departments within the SU and also the University. Lots of names and faces to remember! In pretty much every new meeting we had to briefly mention our yearly priorities and talk through our manifestos which helped narrow down some of my aims into three broad areas (but not limited to them):
- Working to better Student Experience and the Learning Environment in conjunction with the Going for Gold (GfG) Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) strategy
- The BME student experience
- To help empower our course reps and part time officers to increase overall student engagement and have better information flow.
Lots of discussions were had with meetings with Senior Management in University around student voice and having the concerns of students inform the work that is done institutionally. These concerns gave rise to various workstreams within the university's GfG strategy which seeks to improve Teaching Quality and Student Experience through feedback that's been received by students. Some of the newer additions to the more senior staff members have been very receptive of Students' Union feedback and are also keen to have the student voice inform their work, so it's really important that you take part in the surveys that are coming up this year!
I'm getting a hang of balancing all my meetings and emails but still a long way to go. In preparation for the new and returning students, there were lots of new provisions in place which was the first step of hopefully many in the right direction. A lot of my time in the last two months were spent with the Vice-Principal Education (Stephanie Marshall) who's been key ally in supporting student voice. As part of the university's strategy to improve teaching quality and student experience, we paid a visit to every school individually and had conversations about their NSS results and their TEF metrics (which look at how they are doing for employability, retention etc.), and get an idea of what they have in mind to improve on past years.
Higher Education (HE) has a lot of hidden costs and one of these come in the form of printing. From this academic year, all students (including PG students) should get £10 printing credit every year. The library has also reduced the cost of fines.
Another issue affecting the library was the frequent failures of working charging sockets in the Ground Floor. Whilst there hasn't been a clear short-term fix as of yet, I've been having some really productive conversations around how we can mitigate this effect and put some effective long term solutions in place. The library will also be supplying additional replacement passes this year! I know a lot of students expressed frustrations at there just being one pass given per year and there are some more works in the background to make this system more efficient!
The University has also been quite keen on exploring the concept of a "Sticky Campus" where students (especially commuters) stay on campus rather than just come in for lectures. One issue that we identified was the very apparent lack of space for students in between classes/lectures. You'll have seen a lot of new/refurbished spaces around campus and there's plans to expand on these!
Course Reps should also be getting a more intensive and school specific-training delivered to them with the help of the Faculty Education Managers in S&E and HSS. The intention behind this is to equip the course reps with the skills and confidence to be a stronger student voice in SSLCs and be more effective in their roles. This will also build social capital amongst our student and ensure that our course reps are supported in representing your views.
I've also set up a BME students' working group under the Executive Officer team which will be co-chaired by the two BME reps. The purpose of this group is to examine issues facing BME students on our campuses and exploring the best framework for the group to evolve into a BME students' network with a formal committee. There will be opportunities for you to be involved in this group so make sure you keep an eye out for this in our website and newsletters!
The university also sent a delegation to go to Florida International University to look at how unis at States do Peer Led Team Learning. Explaining it in a short bullet point would be really hard but essentially, students support other supports and this is embedded within curriculum and forms a part of your final assesment. Since the introduction of this in the uni we visited, retention, engagement and attainment went up. One of the reasons we were sent to this particular uni is because of the similar demographics of our student populations. There's a lot of things that they do really well and unfortunately, we are a bit behind nationally! They don't have an equivalent of a student union, but it was really interesting to see how they cater for various groups of students. hopefully, in an upcoming blog post or something, I can talk about my trip at length!
I'm also planning Islamophobia Awareness Month for November. So keep an eye out for more info to be released.